The Green Bay Packers bounced back from a poor performance in Week 1 against the Vikings to handily defeat the Chicago Bears, 27-10. In this game, the Packers played the type of game that they need to play to have success this season with their revamped roster on both sides of the ball.
On offense, the Packers emphasized the running game. They consistently fed the ball to their two most dangerous offensive weapons, Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. After the duo combined for only 15 runs in Week 1, they had 33 combined carries against Chicago. The results were impressive as the duo gained a total of 193 yards on the ground with Jones picking up 132 of those yards and averaging 8.8-yards per carry.
While Jones was the more dominant back against the Bears, which back will get more carries and be more effective will vary from game to game. Against some teams, the outside speed and burst of cutting ability of Jones will be the better way to run the ball. Against other opponents, it will be the between the tackles running of Dillon that will be more effective. That may indeed be the case against the Bucs in the next game as Tampa Bay’s speedy linebackers make it tougher to run the ball on the perimeter. It will be up to Matt LaFleur and his coaching staff along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers who can change the play at the line of scrimmage once he sees what defense the opponent has lined up in.
Both running backs were also involved in the passing game against the Bears as well and that must continue to make the offense run efficiently. Jones caught three passes for 38 yards and a touchdown. Dillon had one catch for six yards against the Bears but the previous week, he led all receivers with five catches for 46 yards. Again, the matchups will dictate who gets the ball more often and when.
Jones and Dillon are both capable of making big plays if they get the ball in space and they can create mismatches with their speed or size, depending on who is trying to cover them. Linebackers have trouble keeping up with either back while Jones’ speed makes it difficult for linebackers or safeties to keep up with him.
The shorter passes to the running backs also help keep Rodgers on schedule and makes up for some of the uncertainty on the offense line until David Bakhtiari returns to the lineup and he and Elgton Jenkins return to form. That will take time as Jenkins was out of action for 10 months after suffering his knee injury against the Vikings last November while Bakhtiari first injured his knee in December of 2020. As the duo gets healthier the offensive line will likely perform better. But until then, throwing quick release passes to the running backs and receivers need to be a regular part of the offense.
The way the Packers distributed their passes to their receivers against the Bears was also a model for future success, especially early in the season when Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson are still learning the offense and Robert Tonyan gets healthier as he recovers from last year’s season-ending knee injury.
The Packers had 25 targets in this game with nine different receivers being targeted at least once and eight different players catching at least one pass. Veteran receiver Sammy Watkins led the team with just four targets, a far cry from the days when Davante Adams would have 10-15 targets per game and nobody else would have more than six. Watkins also had the team’s longest catch with a 55-yard grab in the fourth quarter and led the team with 93 receiving yards. His experience and speed are two big assets that help him get open.
The other veteran receivers also figured in the passing game with Randall Cobb catching three passes on three targets and picking up some key first downs. Allen Lazard saw his first action of the season and caught two passes on three targets including a touchdown pass in the closing minutes of the second quarter that put the Packers ahead 24-7 at the break. Lazard should see a bigger role as he gets healthier and back into game shape. He was on a play count in his first game back this season.
Watson and Doubs should see larger roles as they learn the offense and gain the trust of Rodgers. Until then, the quarterback will do best to spread the ball around, exploit matchups and run plays that scheme players open like the pass Cobb caught after lining up in the backfield that worked so well.
The Packers revealed the early-season blueprint for their offense to have success against the Bears. The big question they now need to answer is can they repeat that same winning formula against a contending team like the Bucs. We’ll get the answer to that on Sunday in Tampa.
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